The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 24, 2013

Effort designed to bring water closer to firefighters

By Susan Redden

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Work is under way on a project to bring water closer to firefighting efforts in the Carthage Fire Protection District.

The Carthage Fire Department serves the city and the 167-square-mile district. For the most part, fire hydrants stop at the city limits, so the district is working to install “dry hydrants” to make water more accessible for firefighting outside the city.

The Jasper County Commission has offered to help in the effort, and officials hope to have the first of the dry hydrants in place in the next two months, said Tom Nixon, who is fire marshal for the Carthage department.

A dry hydrant is an installation at a river or a pond that firefighters can use to access water instead of having to haul it to a fire in a firetruck or tanker.

“We would be able to use that instead of having to come all the way back into town for water,” Nixon said. “We would put a truck there (at a dry hydrant) and pull water into the truck, and other trucks would come there and fill up, and go back to the fire.”

Water supplies can be quickly exhausted in a rural area where there is no fire hydrant, Nixon said.

“You roll out with basically about 2,500 gallons between two trucks, and you’re pumping between 100 and 125 gallons a minute — that’s per hose,” he said. “It doesn’t take long to go through it.”

Locations for the hydrants are being scouted at rivers and in large ponds.

“Some are on private property, and we’ll have to ask for the owner’s permission,” Nixon said. “And I’m hoping some people will offer once they hear about the program.”

Parts for the hydrants will cost between $700 and $800 per hydrant. The department is applying for funding through the National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise Communities program to pay for the equipment.

The county commissioners have offered the help of highway department crews to clear access to the hydrant locations. Eventually, Nixon said, he hopes about 10 of the hydrants can be installed in areas throughout the district, so that fire crews always are within two miles of a water source.

In addition to improving fire responses, the program is designed to improve the rating that is used to set costs for homeowners insurance. Access to water is one of the measures used when fire departments are evaluated.

“We’re going to be able to put out fires a lot faster, because we won’t have to worry about running out of water,” Nixon said.

Dry hydrants are in use by the Duenweg and Redings Mill fire departments, Nixon said.

Firewise Communities

THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of State Foresters, the federal Department of the Interior and the U.S. Forest Service are co-sponsors of the Firewise Communities program that encourages local solutions for wildfire safety.